Payaslian Completes First Year as Boston University’s Modern Armenian History, Literature Chair

Professor Simon Payaslian was appointed the Charles and Elisabeth Kenosian Chair in Modern Armenian History and Literature at Boston University beginning in September 2007. The Kenosian Chair was established at BU in 2007 to promote the study of modern Armenian history and literature from the early nineteenth century to the present. Payaslian joined more than thirty internationally renowned historians in the Department of History at BU. His activities during the academic year 2007-08 included publications, teaching, and public lectures and other community outreach activities.

During the academic year of 2007-08, Professor Payaslian published two books. The first, titled The History Of Armenia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), consists of nine chapters and surveys Armenian history from the origins to the present. Payaslian also co-edited a volume, titled Armenian Cilicia, with Professor Richard G. Hovannisian (UCLA). The volume, published by Mazda Publishers (2008), consists of 22 chapters, including surveys of the geography and history of Cilicia from ancient times to the final disintegration of the Armenian communities during and after World War I. The chapter by Payaslian (pp. 557-592), titled The Institutionalization Of The Great House Of Cilicia In Antelias, focuses on the emergence of development of the Cilician Catholicosate in Beirut between 1916 and 1956.

Payaslian published a chapter, titled Anatomy of Post-Genocide Reconciliation, in the book The Armenian Genocide: Cultural And Ethical Legacies, edited by Hovannisian (Transaction Publishers, 2007). The chapter contends that truth commissions as practiced thus far in other cases (eg, Rwanda, South Africa) are not applicable to the Armenian-Turkish case. The paper instead proposes a two-phase process, whereby Armenian-Turkish negotiations would be conducted under the auspices of a multilateral body (eg, the United Nations), followed by bilateral negotiations between the governmen’s of Armenia and Turkey.

Professor Payaslian also published an article, titled Hovhannes Shiraz, Paruyr Sevak, And The Memory Of The Armenian Genocide, In The Journal Of The Society For Armenian Studies, vol. 16 (2007): 89-107. The paper presents a comparative analysis of the construction of the memory of the Armenian Genocide in the literary works of Hovhannes Shiraz and Paruyr Sevak, two of the most popular poets in the former Soviet republic of Armenia. The analysis centers on poetry as the narrative of historical memory, commemoration, and mourning.

Payaslian contributed two articles for The Oxford Encyclopedia Of Women In World History (4 vols., Oxford University Press, 2008). The first article covers diaspora and women and consists of (1) an overview of the concept of DIASPORA and diasporization, and (2) a comparative history (vol. 2, pp. 43-54). The second article, on genocide and women (vol. 2, pp. 364-71), focuses on a number of cases in the twentieth century, including the Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire during World War I, the Jewish Holocaust and World War II, and the genocides in Cambodia (1975-79) and Rwanda (1994).

Professor Payaslian offered four courses during the academic year (September 2007-May 2008) at Boston University. During the fall semester (Sept.-Dec. 2007) he taught a course on modern Armenian history and literature, and a course on the Armenian Genocide. In the course on Armenian history and literature, students read chapters from A Concise History Of The Armenian People by George A. Bournoutian; The Armenian People From Ancient To Modern Times (vol. 2), edited by Richard G. Hovannisian; Armenia At The Crossroads by Joseph R. Masih and Robert O. Krikorian; and Passage To Ararat Michael Arlen. They also read selections from Armenian literature, including, for example, Khachatur Abovian, Raffi, Srbuhi Dussap, Misak Medzarents, Hovannes Tumanian, Zapel Esayan, Vahan Tekeyan, Gurgen Mahari, and Silva Kaputikyan.

For the course on the Armenian Genocide, students read a number of books, including A Shameful Act, by Taner Ak?am; The German, The Turk, And The Devil Made An Alliance, by Tacy Atkinson; The History Of The Armenian Genocide, by Vahakn Dadrian; The Armenian Genocide: History, Politics, Ethics, edited by Richard G. Hovannisian; and Survivors, by Donald E. Miller and Lorna Touryan Miller. Payaslian also offered this course in summer session I (May-June 2008).

In the spring semester (Jan. 2008-May 2008), Professor Payaslian taught a course on history research and writing, and a course titled Modern History And Geopolitics Of The Caucasus. The purpose of the course on history research and writing is to strengthen the writing and research skills of students, to examine methodological issues involved in the writing of history, and to examine the relationship between research and writing. The theme for the course was American foreign policy since World War I. It reviewed the evolution of American foreign policy from Wilsonian idealism and internationalism to isolationism and to globalism. Students read books such as Explaining American Foreign Relations, by Michael Hogan and Thomas G. Paterson; The End Of The American Era, by Charles Kupchan; and Major Problems In American Foreign Policy (vol. 2), edited by Dennis Merrill and Thomas Paterson.

The course on Modern History and Geopolitics of the Caucasus covered the history of the Caucasus from the early nineteenth century to the post-Soviet period. It explored the ethnic, cultural, and religious components of the region. The course examined the emergence of Armenian, Azerbaijani, and Georgian nationalism and the impact of imperial powers on their efforts toward modernization and development in the age of interdependence and globalization. Students read The Caucasian Knot, by Levon Chorbajian, Patrick Donabedian, and Claude Mutafian; Caucasus Chronicles, by Leonidas T. Chrysanthopoulos; Troubled Waters, by R. Hrair Dekmejian and Hovann H. Simonian; Black Garden, by Thomas De Waal; and Transcaucasia, Nationalism, And Social Change, by Ronald Gregory Suny.

Payaslian gave a number of public lectures during the academic year 2007-08. He gave a talk, titled The Politics Of Genocide Recognition In The United States, on November 11, 2007, in Toronto. The event was organized by the Zoryan Institute and co-sponsored by several Armenian organizations. His talk presented a survey of the history of U.S. foreign policy and the Armenian Question and focused on House Resolution 106 regarding the Armenian Genocide.

While in Toronto, on November 12, Payaslian also met with the president of the Armenian Student Association (ASA) at the University of Toronto and discussed ways to strengthen the ties between ASA-UT and other ASA organizations in Canada and the United States.

On December 5, 2007, Payaslian participated at a panel on genocide denial and covered The Political Economy Of Genocide Denial. The panel was organized by the Armenian Students Association at Boston University.

Payaslian gave his inaugural lecture as the first incumbent of the Kenosian Chair at BU, at the Castle on March 26, 2008. His talk was titled Daniel Varoujan, Siamanto, And The Last Generation In Historic Armenia Before The Cataclysm. The event was co-sponsored by the International History Institute of BU. Professor William Keylor, Director of IHI, emceed the event, and Professor Charles Dellheim, Chair of the History Department, talked about the Kenosian Chair and introduced Payaslian. In his talk, Payaslian presented the evolution of Armenian political thought from romanticism in the nineteenth century to radicalism by the early twentieth century and focused on two influential poets in Ottoman or Western Armenia, Daniel Varoujan (1884-1915) and Siamanto (1878-1915).

Payaslian also presented a paper, titled Three Republics Of The Caucasus: Independence And Human Rights In Armenia, Azerbaijan, And Georgia, at the annual conference of the Midwest Political Science Association, April 3-6, 2008, in Chicago.

On April 11, Payaslian gave a public lecture at the University of Montreal on US foreign policy and the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. The event was co-sponsored by the Zoryan Institute of Toronto and the Armenian Students Association of the University of Montreal, in addition to a number of other student and community organizations in Montreal.

During the summer, Payaslian will give a lecture on the Armenian Genocide, on July 31, 2008, at the Genocide and Human Rights University Program of the Zoryan Institute, the University of Toronto.

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